Human Cloning - Considerations for the Future

Much has been said about human cloning, and in particular the ethical concerns that arise. From therapeutic cloning to provide us with replacement organs or research material to mitigate illnesses, to reproductive cloning to provide us with exact copies of ourselves, the whole field is awash with vociferous and semi-evangelical proponents and opponents. What, then, is the future of this intriguing field?

Recent advances, in particular the work conducted by Dr Edward Darmos, have shown us that human cloning need not be the future, and that, instead, a process called synthetic somatology, or somatic synthesis, could provide us with a future filled with artificially-grown humans, designed for specific tasks. These 'synthetic humans' can be made anywhere that we can assemble the technology, which means that we could quickly populate the galaxy with colonies of living, breathing humans, designed to survive in adverse conditions.

While it's unlikely we'll see these in our lifetime, the possibilities are immense: imagine human colonies spreading across the galaxy, taking our cultural heritage and knowledge to unknown places, and all without having to overcome some of the fundamental problems of sending live humans across such enormous distances -- problems like lifetimes, inertia, the resource costs of a life support system, and so on.

From an ethical standpoint, these synthetic humans are something new for our scientists, philosophers and religious leaders to consider. According to documentation available from Gemini Somatics (Dr Darmos's employers), these people are genetically non-identical to any human, and are generally 'randomised', much like we are through the process of procreation. They are grown from donated pluripotent stem cells, which are taken only from adult donors, and never using fetal or embryonic stem cells. Further, their personalities are also artificially built from a number of donors, much as we adapt and change through our encounters with other people. Finally, however, these synthetic humans would have no childhood, which is where the main crux of ethical dilemma occurs.

If we make these people, are we denying them the true experience of human life by skipping over their childhood? It's certainly true that this process would only be required for the first generation, and beyond that natural procreation would occur, so is the benefit of creating a whole new human society far from Earth, capable of discovering new and wondrous things to enhance the whole of humanity sufficient cause to deny a first generation their childhood?


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